LADY KYNASTON’S PLANS.
Swift as a shadow, short as any dream,
Brief as the lightning in the collied night.
And ere a man hath power to say, “Behold!”
The jaws of darkness do devour it up:
So quick bright things come to confusion.
“Midsummer Night’s Dream.”
Sir John Kynaston sat alone in his old-bachelor rooms in London. They were dark, dingy rooms, such as are to be found in countless numbers among the narrow streets that encompass St. James’s Street. They were cheerless and comfortless, and, withal, high-rented, and possessed of no other known advantage than that of their undeniably central situation. They were not rooms that one would suppose any man would care to linger in in broad daylight; and yet Sir John remained in them now a days almost from morning till night.
He sat for the most part as he is sitting now—in a shabby, leathern arm-chair, stooping a little forward, and doing nothing. Sometimes he wrote a few necessary letters, sometimes he made a feint of reading the paper; but oftenest he did nothing, only sat still, staring before him with a hopeless misery in his face.
For in these days Sir John Kynaston was a very unhappy man. He had received a blow such as strikes at the very root and spring of a man’s life—a blow which a younger man often battles through and is none the worse in the end for, but under which a man of his age is apt to be crushed and to succumb. Within a week of his wedding-day Vera Nevill had broken her engagement to him. It had been a nine days’ wonder in Meadowshire—the county had rung with the news—everybody had marvelled and speculated, but no one had got any nearer to the truth than that Vera was supposed to have “mistaken her feelings.” The women had cried shame upon her for such capriciousness, and had voted her a fool into the bargain for throwing over such a match; and if a male voice, somewhat less timid than the rest, had here and there uplifted itself in her defence and had ventured to hint that she might have had sufficient and praiseworthy motives for her conduct, a chorus of feminine indignation had smothered the kindly suggestion in a whole whirl-wind of abuse and reviling.
As to Sir John, he blamed her not, and yet he knew no more about it than any of them; he, too, could only have told you that Vera had mistaken her feelings—he knew no more than that—for it was but half the truth that she had told him. But it had been more than enough to convince him that she was perfectly right. When, after telling him plainly that she found she did not love him enough, that there had been other and extraneous reasons that had blinded her to the fact at the time she had accepted him, but that she had found it out later on; when, after saying this she had asked him plainly whether he would wish to have a wife who valued his name, and his wealth,